Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’

You don’t need me to preach the Four Season Interest gospel. From your comments, I’m guessing that you’re all pretty well versed in these pursuits and no one needs to nudge you to make the scene stupendous throughout the year. Of course you want maximum mileage out of every plant on the premises. That’s why I invited Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ into the clan years ago. And that’s why I clenched my fist in its general direction years ago.

Sure hope no one recorded the moment that I vowed never to grow another Harry Lauder’s walking stick. If you weren’t around with a microphone a few years ago when the plain vanilla corkscrew hazel was being escorted off the property, then I’m safe. I put it in because I’m kinky. And so is Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’. Problem was, it only really looked good when it was naked (definitely my polar opposite). Which was in winter. In summer, it was a blob of unwieldy proportions. With time, it looked even more like a whale with leaves. I was delighted when it died. At last, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ was perennially naked. It would never trouble me with its ragged clothing again. But who wants a skeleton in summer? Finally, even the corpse was bounced.

So I figured = End of story. Then along came Trade Secrets. It wouldn’t be the first time that the guys at Broken Arrow Nursery ( turned my head. And I marched home with their one and only Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’. That was a few years ago, and now it’s readily available. But to give credit where due — Broken Arrow was precocious. As usual.

Okay, here’s the description = deep wine-colored leaves that start spring lining the stems with fiery red, pleated leaf buds like folded mouse ears. But before that, those same twisting, turning stems bear little bundles of cone-like, dangling catkins. And even before that, this curvaceous exhibitionist doesn’t disappoint when it’s parading around naked, silhouetted against the snow. My ‘Red Majestic’ is more compact than ole ‘Contorta’ so it forms a perfectly proportioned package. The fellows at Broken Arrow warned that it could send up green shoots occasionally, which it does every once in a while. A few snips, and they’re gone.

The foliage always looks wonderful. And I’ve been working the echoes ever since (check out the columbine). Although I’m not always big on dark-colored foliage, you need something like this to set off the hot colors of orange and red if you’re thus inclined (which I am). It’s genius with chartreuse. And the burgundy uncorks nearby purple blossoms to make them pop. So what do you think, all you purple appassionatas? It sure kept my alliums from melting into mauve visually. What’s your vote?

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31 Responses to Corylus avellana ‘Red Majestic’

  1. Wow, thanks for this post; I’d never seen or heard of this plant….but I’ll start a search for it today!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      You won’t be disappointed, Professor. And I bet you can hunt it down now. I’ve seen it at lots of local nurseries this year. Let me know if there’s a ‘Red Majestic’ sighting in your area because folks are always asking me.

  2. Tovah,
    Any problems with Japanese beetles? I was hot after a red-leafed filbert several years ago and could never find one. Yours looks sensational.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Hey Michael, shhhh…I don’t want to tempt the gods. But I don’t have huge Japanese beetle problems. For example, I can grow morning glories with scarcely a nibble (I mean, before I jinxed myself by writing this). So far, so good on ‘Red Majesty’. But they didn’t pester my ‘Contorta’ filbert (aka hazelnut) either. But you’ve got a point, guess I wouldn’t be so keen on it if I had a beetle invasion. But the leaves are really leathery. Seem to be slightly thicker in texture than ‘Contorta’. Anyone else have this issue?

      • Paula says:

        Wow, I really am late to this party (I was a tad distracted these past few weeks). We had a Harry Lauder’s walking stick that was destroyed by Japanese beetles several years ago. We actually kept the dead form in the garden for 2 years before pulling it. Michael… if you venture forth with the red-leafed filbert, we will be interested in hearing of your results.

        • Tovah Martin says:

          Seems to me that I saw a ‘Red Majestic’ somewhere in my travels up in NH/VT this last week, Paula (that’s where I’ve been gang — will catch up on the blog posts this weekend, I promise). Pretty sure that I did. Still fully clothed, but then = Japanese beetles haven’t begun their gorging yet.

  3. Love this color foliage especially with anything chartruese (sp?). My “Contorta” anchors the side of my porch and delights the kids and curiously the dogs as well, but it is boring green. I have a few areas I am still filling and this shrub may get on the short list because it has so much interest. Broken Arrow was at Tower Hill’s plant sale this weekend and I kept my head down as I passed them by. My plant budget is exhausted for this year and I KNEW there would be irresistable temptation there. Now I am full of saddness and regret , I happened to see out of the corner of my eye a chartruese Rhus that absolutely glowed and would look wild next to “Red Majesty”. Maybe a road trip is in order…….

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Well, totally coincidentally, I have a Tiger Eye sumac just a couple of yards away from the ‘Red Majestic’ and I’ve got to tell you that I wouldn’t even have noticed that the sumac has pink stems if it weren’t for the hazelnut bringing that color to the fore. It works dynamite with chartreuse. I have a ‘Goldmound’ spirea close by. Hey, I can sing you a ballad and a half about exhausted plant budgets…

  4. Lisa from PA says:

    I had no idea Harry came in maroon! Love it and all its possibilities. Thanks for another winner, Tovah.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      It’s coming to a nursery near you, I’m sure, Lisa. This used to be a Purple Cow, but no longer. Come to think of it = Don’t you love how we embrace Purple Cows in horticulture? Are you in a drought down there, btw, or have you been getting thunderstorms?

  5. Lisa from PA says:

    We have had a terrible drought up until last night. Had a huge damaging thunder, lightning, rain, and wind storm (does it ever just lightly rain anymore?) which toppled trees and sent my garden waste bins scattering through the backyard. At least the garden got watered- I only have two hands, two soaker hoses hooked up, and one water spout! I have a small nursery near me whose owner is a friend of mine. She’s kinda 60’s hippy-ish and finds the most different, off the beaten track plants and shrubs for her place- I am sure to find “Red Majestic” there. That’s where I found the lime-colored nine barks I have in my side yard. Was weeding someone else’s garden yesterday morning (yes, I should have my head examined- 90+ degrees and humid) and saw a hummingbird feeding on a lonicera- in the hazy humid air, I visually remembered your post about the lonicera and said to myself, I’ve gotta get one of those! Lisa

    • Tovah Martin says:

      So sorry to be off line for a couple of days, Lisa. We REALLY got that storm. 70mph winds here. Fortunately, I didn’t lose any trees, but we’ve been trapped with so many trees on the roads, no one can get anywhere. I just got back on line a few minutes ago. Everyone loves the lonicera. I even have some nesting birds in its wonderful tangle. And I’m here to tell you to stop the 90+ weeding sprees! The weather’s so much better today. We’re getting one of those good ole fashioned light rains (like we need more rain). My nine bark has a funny fungus. Sort of like powdery mildew. Anybody else suffering from it?

  6. I had planted a new nine bark ‘coppertina’ in a yard last year and it got hit hard with a white fungus that ended up killing it. I figured it was too shady where it was planted and never treated it with anything but wish I knew what it was…. a little research is in order I guess. I would be interested what ends up happening with yours.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      I’m so glad we’re talking about this = sometimes I feel like it’s only me getting targeted by some smut or other. It started on my Physocarpus ‘Dart’s Gold’ when it was in the shade, so I moved it to a much sunnier location. Happened again. So I cut it down to the nub. Seems to have helped. But now my ‘Coppertina’ (far away from ‘Dart’s Gold’) is coming down with it. Sort of shrivels up into nothing. Maude = are you around? Can you speak into this?

      • Maude Odgers says:

        Sorry to be late to this. We, too, were a bit doomed with the last storm. But I can’t complain about the rain. Yes, I do know of this fungus problem and I’m sorry to tell you that my reading on this is that the plant needs to go. This also happened to my Cotinus ‘Grace’ which just about broke my heart to give up on it as it was a show stopper in my garden. But the experts say take them out and don’t put the same plant back in it’s place. The problem is that it can spread, so be mindful. I like to live on the edge, but that’s too close even for me. As for Japanese beetles on Corylus I had to give mine up. I love the winter structure, but it’s eaten leaves all summer was not a nice site. I have a friend who has one with no problem so far. I’ve decided if beetles like it, it can’t be in my garden. So sorry because I love that purple one you have Tovah.

        • Tovah Martin says:

          Thanks for jumping in and helping us on this, Maude. I remember you had experience with it also. Really seems as though I cured ‘Dart’s Gold’ with that heavy prune-back. But I’ll keep you posted. And I’ve got a cotinus that’s problem free (keeping my fingers crossed). I had no idea that it’s a target of this scourge. I mentioned it to the Broken Arrow crew, and they were scratching their heads and drawing a blank. Maybe we better call in the big guns at the Experiment Station…Mercifully, the Japanese beetles are all vacationing (and chowing) up your way. Not a problem here (yet) — but I put in a bunch of Austin Own Root roses this year, so I’m courting the devil.

  7. Lisa from PA says:

    Tovah~ By the time I read this, I already missed your appearance on the morning show. Darn, Darn, Darn! Let us know earlier so we can plan on watching. I’d even set my alarm for something like that! lol Regarding the white stuff on your nine barks- I’ve got it too, on my ‘coppertina’ nine barks in full sun front yard. I prune them well so they are not touching and have plenty of air circulation. It can’t be powdery mildew, it’s too fluid-like and creepy. It’s all over all four of them. I was going to prune the infected areas but if I did that I wouldn’t have any shrub left. I think it must be because of the horrible wet spring, very hot early summer, and crazy humidity we’re having now. Haven’t had a chance to look it up yet- definitely need a proper ID done. Would hate to lose them, for sure.

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Hey Lisa, Try going to this video for my CBS Sunday Early Show segment =;lst;3
      Sorry to give you all such short notice, but I was out of power when the CBS folks let me know it would be aired. And I didn’t get back in communication until a few hours before the show aired. Sorry. Let me know if this works.
      Read the comment below on the ninebarks smut. Seems as though it’s a species-specific thing. I’m with you that it’s probably not powdery mildew. Actually, I’ve been told that powdery mildew can’t travel between different plants. In other words = the mildew that your lilac gets is different from the mildew that your phlox gets. Interesting.

  8. Hi Tovah,

    What a delightful shrub and a great description!

    Best Wishes


    • Tovah Martin says:

      Hey William, I just learned another virtue of ‘Red Majestic’ = we had the worst rain/wind storm with 70-80mph winds. A lot of my shrubs go tussled (but nothing went down). The ‘Red Majestic’ wrestled the winds without batting an eyelash. Short and squat wins again.

  9. Maude Odgers says:

    I need to clarify my comment. What happened to my Cotinus (Smokebush) is a wilt problem and different from the mildew problem that happens to Physocarpus (Ninebarks). Physocarpus are in the rose family and although they are not susceptible to all the problems roses have, they do get mildew. This especially happens when we have warm days, cool nights and then rain and humidity. Having a dry season followed by a rainy season also increases chances of mildew and other problems as the plants are stressed. Mildew will not kill the plant and you don’t need to get rid of it unless it bothers you. Tovah is correct that it does not spread to other plants. But the treatment is the same. There are fungicides on the market which can be used. If you want a more natural approach you can mix 1/8 tsp baking soda, a drop or two of dish soap in a 16 oz spray bottle filled with water. Spray as soon as you notice the mildew and repeat often. Remove the worst stems, wear gloves, do not do when wet and do not put in your compost. Burn or destroy if you can. Make sure there isn’t a lot of leaf litter or too much mulch beneath plant. You can also use botanical oil sprays which are also not harmful. This is my understanding on the mildew problem. Sorry for confusing the issue in mentioning the cotinus. Tovah, thanks for the link to your show. I will try that as I missed it too!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Thank you SO much, Maude. This is wonderful = especially the formula. The only note I would add is that it’s been suggested to me that baking soda preventatively is not a bad idea.

  10. Lisa from PA says:

    What an interesting thread! I love reading about good plants, problems, possible solutions…it’s the Sherlock Holmes in me. I, too, looked up white stuff on my nine barks and the only article I found was a baking soda recipe for controlling powdery mildew on plants in general. It is the same recipe that Maude has offered. The article suggests adding 1 tablespoon of ultralight horticultural oil to the mixture to help coat and smother the fungi. It also reminds us to apply to lower leaf surfaces as well. This remedy is actually most effective, it says, as a preventative, but weekly spraying of susceptible plants during damp or humid weather can greatly reduce getting powdery mildew in the first place. I rechecked the leaves on my nine bark. Some leaves do look like pm, and some look wet and gloppy with the white stuff. Maybe I’ve got more than one problem. I’ll check out your cbs news video of your appearance, Tovah~ thanks!

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Well Sherlock Holmes, there’s one interesting theory that I didn’t mention before. A wholesale grower friend of mine claims that powdery mildew isn’t as bad when rain comes in torrential storms. He claims that it washes the pm spores off. Unfortunately, I bet all that baking soda is also gonzos after the sort of gullywashers we’ve been getting…

  11. Maude Odgers says:

    Lisa, that is a brilliant idea of adding the horticultural oil directly to the baking soda mixture. Makes so much sense. If you want to delve into the isles of fungicides I would think the rose fungicides might work best since they are in the same family. I love finding out information too. Thank you!

  12. Corylus Red Majestic

    I bought mine in a “smart pot” several weeks a go and haven’t planted it yet. I’ve noticed the leaves are getting crunch (dead) on the bottom with a red/green leaf on top. What should I do, should I plant it in the sun and forget abot it, hoping for the best?

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Sorry to be slow to respond, Deborah, I’ve noticed that sometimes there is some die back on the lower leaves of corylus, but new growth is usually pretty strong. I’d suggest planting it and hoping for the best. Of course, water it regularly, etc just as you would any newly planted shrub. Let us know how it does…

  13. sue from Maine via NH says:

    We got a red majestic a couple of years ago. Just love it. I got on this site asking about the green shoots. I did nip them and am glad to hear that was the thing to do. Great blog

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Hey Sue! You know, I don’t find that ‘Red Majestic’ makes many suckers compared to the plain vanilla version. A clean sweep once a year pretty much does it for me. And thank you for the kind words! I’ve been working to chronicle more great plants. Always open to requests…

  14. Suzan McIntyre says:

    Hi Everyone! Boy am I late finding this site! Tovah, Maude and Sue, the gooey white stuff on ninebark is powdery mildew according to Dr. Bruce Watt of UMaine. Even though it looks and sort of feels like yogurt splashed all over the leaves, Bruce says powdery mildew. I would treat for that.

    Sue McIntyre
    MCL, MCN

    • Tovah Martin says:

      Perfect timing, Sue. Thank you for doing the sleuth work for us. We weren’t able to do A THING about it before now anyway. And until leaves appear, I guess it would just be a worry on the horizon. All of my physocarpus came down with it last year, more or less. I’m seriously evaluating whether I want to switch my affinities elsewhere.

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